Art of Fighting 3
Art of Fighting 3
April 3, 1996
Buy Used Copy
Art of Fighting 3 (known in Japan as Ryuuko no Ken Gaiden) shook things up in many ways: it featured a largely new cast of characters, shifted to more colourful 3D visuals, and featured a particularly unusual soundtrack. Returning composers Yasumasa Yamada and Masahiko Hataya decided to craft a big band jazz soundtrack for the game. And rather than offer diverse character themes, they instead focused on a theme-and-variations approach.
Like previous Fatal Fury games, Art of Fighting 3‘s soundtrack is completely dominated by character themes. But this time, there are just three of them: “Get High” for returning Karate master Ryo Sakazaki, “Mojo” for his Italian companion Robert Garcia, and “Muzika Jungle” for the final boss Wyler. On the soundtrack release, they’re each presented in three to five arrangements in close succession; each arrangement differs somewhat in style and mood, but adheres closely to the main melody. While this theme-and-variations approach worked fluidly in the game, it results in a rather repetitive and frustrating stand-alone experience.
The themes themselves are well done. While SNK have produced jazzy themes since their inception, few sound as authentic as “Get High”. The saxophone leads have a free-spirited pseudo-improvised feel to them, while the snare drum and acoustic bass emphasise the classic jazz sound. “Mojo”, on the other hand, is the most conventionally catchy addition to the soundtrack and features a standout trumpet melody. “Muzika Jungle” is suitably more intense — the dissonant piano clusters and wild saxophone soli have clear bebop influences, though are also oddly reminiscent of the more rhythmically and texturally driven pieces from the original Art of Fighting.
All that said, the intentions of the composers are often limited by technological factors. While they do their best to emulate a big band sound, the samples are too low quality to really do the ideas justice; despite being released in the same year as Tekken 3 and Street Fighter EX, the soundtrack still relies on last-generation FM synth. Only the game’s arranged album fully realises the big band jazz sound that Yamada was aiming for. Such limitations also mean that the variations don’t always stand out as they should; a few take bold directions, such as “Mojo (Ramble)” with its Latin influences and or “Get High (Goa Trance)” with its tribal influences, but the majority are uninteresting.
There isn’t much to break up the repetition. The tracks used for the various menus are all brief and unremarkable, leaving just three other stand-alone tracks. “Stone in Santana” and “Cinco de Mayo” are used to accompany two of the most memorable stages in the game. The former is a gritty bass-focused rock theme, while the latter is an orchestration written for a parade. Though they both bring something novel to the soundtrack, both are quite repetitive and the latter is atrociously derivative. The ending theme “Liberation Hallucination” is a short but sweet highlight that brings more sensual jazz tones to the listener. The release closes with Japanese voice recordings for each of the characters and a sound effects collection.
It’s impossible to recommend this release. While the soundtrack is effective in contexts, the content is too sparse to be satisfying on a stand-alone basis — after all, there are only six full-length pieces on offer. While Yasumasa Yamada offers some convincing jazz stylings, the synth proves a massive hindrance and the variations are largely uninteresting. Even at 1500 JPY, it isn’t good value for money.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on January 22, 2016.